Iced tea is so everywhere, so popular. If you’re reading this, you probably enjoy it on the reg. You’re in good company! In fact, in 2021, Americans drank 85 billion servings — 4 billion gallons — of tea with more than half the population enjoying tea daily.
What you might not know is that roughly 85% of all that tea consumed is iced tea. Say what? Yes. Despite hot tea’s well-known ancient history, here in the US iced tea rules the roost. But do you know the history of your favorite quencher?
Despite the fact that tea is not traditionally grown in North America, the early colonists grew tea in the southern colonies starting in the 17th century. It’s widely reported that the first recipes for iced tea in the US were published in a couple of recipe collections in 1876 and 1877. These recipes suggested making iced tea the way we all used to make it: brew hot tea then chill it, add sugar and lemon, enjoy.
Over the next couple of decades, the popularity of the drink started to explode. Surprise: sweet tea actually first gained popularity in Boston but came to its true dominance in the South during the sweltering summers. If they’d had the internet, we’re pretty sure it would have taken just weeks.
Although there was no internet back then, there was the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where the popularity of iced tea exploded. Richard Blechynden, the Commissioner of Tea for India and one of the fair’s directors, was exhibiting hot black tea. It was summer in St. Louis and the heat was withering. No one was interested in hot tea, so they decided to make iced tea. Necessity being the mother of invention, it was an instant hit.
Restaurateurs saw what was happening and began offering iced tea, too. Then people across the country started making it at home and, to call on an apt cliché, the rest is history. And we’re sure grateful for that. Today, we like to think we offer the very best teas for making your favorite thirst quencher – black, green, spicy, fruity, or floral. Happy summer, friends!